Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Redistricting plan passes muster

Twin Falls County: Plan is ‘acceptable’


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer


The state’s latest redistricting map, above, is unlikely to provoke a legal challenge from Twin Falls County, making it the least controversial plan adopted so far. Courtesy graphic

Idaho's third redistricting map may just stick, as the state's Commission for Reapportionment adopted a plan Friday that Twin Falls County says it won't challenge.

The latest map, in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that overturned the commission's second plan, splits only seven counties. The previous plan, adopted in October, split 12 counties.

Idaho's new political boundaries do not change Blaine County's district, with the exception of changing its name from District 25 to District 26. Blaine will remain a district with Lincoln, Camas and Gooding counties.

Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, had said earlier this year that she would run for re-election if the district remained the same, and the inclusion of Gooding County means that Rep. Donna Pence, D-Gooding, is also eligible to remain in her district. Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, has already announced her intention to retire after this session. Former Community School athletic director John Remington, also a Democrat, has said he will for her seat.

However, the new plan does pit some incumbents across the state against one another. Most notably, Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, will be pitted against Senate Judiciary and Rules Chair Denton Darrington, R-Declo, for the Senate position in the new District 27.

"It's a worse plan for incumbents," Jaquet said at a public meeting in Bellevue on Saturday. "The expression 'be careful what you wish for' comes to mind."

The map still splits Twin Falls County into three districts. One encompasses most of the city of Twin Falls, while part of the county will join Owyhee and Elmore counties in District 23 and the other will join Jerome County in District 25.

The earlier plan also split Twin Falls County in three, which was the driving force behind that county's legal challenge of the map. The main objection was that the eastern part of the county, rather than joining Jerome County, would have joined Cassia and Power counties, making for a larger and more unwieldy district.

Twin Falls County commissioners said in a press release Monday that they do not plan to challenge the new plan, even though they are still "dismayed" by what they view as an unnecessary split of the county.

"Our victory in the Supreme Court resulted in a better plan for Twin Falls County and more constitutional redistricting of the entire state," said Commissioner George Urie in Monday's release.

County Prosecutor Grant Loebs, who represented the county in the Supreme Court case, said he agreed with Urie.

"It's not a good plan, but it's an acceptable one," he said. "It's considerably better than the previous plan that extended Twin Falls districts all the way to Chubbuck."

The map was adopted by the original members of the state's second redistricting commission, despite efforts by GOP leadership to remove two of its nominees to the commission last week.

Speaker of the House Lawerence Denney and Idaho GOP Chair Norm Semanko announced last week that they would remove appointees Dolores Crow and Randy Hansen from the committee, due to the appointees' approval of a map that party leadership said they believed did not represent the party's best interest.

However, Semanko issued a press release Friday stating that Hansen's perceived party disloyalty was not the reason for that attempted removal.

"After receiving numerous phone calls from Twin Falls County residents and folks from all over the state asking me to appoint a new commissioner...I decided to ask for Randy's resignation," Semanko said in Friday's release.

"Let me be very clear that it had nothing to do with his perceived political leanings," he said. " firmly believed it was in the best interest of the state to appoint a new commissioner to move the process forward."

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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